Chapter Sixteen

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And I hope I hope I hope it's soon. Because for me it's always been you who hung the moon. Even when she glares and stares and doesn't care, I see you up there. –Jackson Killian

Chapter Sixteen

My kitchen table was draped in an old white sheet, atop of which sat the crate of cameras Bettie had bought in Placerville a few days ago. I'd also pulled out my mother's box of old cameras from the closet. My laptop was open to a repair webpage with step-by-step instructions. I had a bottle of ROR fluid, another of acetone, a camel brush, some old wrenches, and a pile of the soft rags Quinn called shammies. My tiny weapons included a new carton of Q-tips, two boxes of toothpicks, and one of meat skewers. A pad of paper and a pen for a parts list sat ready with a teacup full of Zinfandel beside it.

The overhead fan circled slowly above me, moving cool night air in from the open kitchen window. My phone was plugged into Quinn's little iHome and quietly shuffled a sedate playlist.

I pulled out the Speed Graphic. I'd wanted one for a long time, just for the look of it, even if it never took another picture. But I thought, if I was careful, and if I recognized when I was out of my depth, I might be able to get it functional again.

I'd watched a few YouTube videos and thought I could at least handle the cleaning of it myself. I started slowly, stacking parts as I pulled them off and brushed them clean. I thought about how different this camera was from the Coolpix I'd bought at Best Buy. The Coolpix I'd used all of three times.

I just didn't feel the desire, the same way. Point and shoot was great for when Quinn was on the move or I needed a fast memory burned into forever, but I'd had no compulsion to take pictures with it. To take pictures of subjects. For that I wanted an old beast. Something you had to tease and coerce to get what you wanted.

I didn't have a place to develop anything, but I wasn't thinking that far. I just wanted to aim the Speed Graphic at something. Like a weapon of my creativity, I just wanted to feel it operational in my hands. I wanted inspiration; I wanted the surge of it. To know my ability wasn't dead, as I'd been fearing.

Using a meat skewer, I carefully scratched grunge out of a seam and blew a slim line of air into the crack. Grey-green funk fluttered down to the table. Curious, I smeared a few of the dusty nuggets into the white sheet with my finger.

The gunpowdery mess was greasy on my skin. I rubbed my thumb and index finger together, wondering what the grime was made of–what muck lingering on fingers from ages past had been scraped into the sharp creases of this small machine.

Maybe a press photographer had rushed from his lunch into the scene of a riot or a rally, ketchup or apple pie residue on his hands. Maybe a National Geographic documentarian, hidden low in a bush as the sun came up, had caught the attention of lion and took off running, savannah dirt clinging to her and her camera. Maybe...

The knock was short and soft, but it still startled me. I leaned my chair back to look out the window, knowing the porch was blocked from this angle. I glanced the other way down the driveway, but my gleaming fresh-washed Bronco blocked the view.

"Who is it?"

I knew though, before he answered, "Jack."

I brushed my hands on my jeans and opened the door. He stood sheepishly on the front step, head cocked to one side and the porch light scraping light over the sharp bone of his cheek. The rest of his face was in shadow.

"You're back."

He'd returned to L.A. after the hearing and the new custody orders were to begin this Friday. He'd emailed me his schedule and the nights he wanted to watch Quinn. I'd gone over those dates with Jeanie who had apologetically explained that watching Quinn was her full time job. It worked well for her with her school schedule and asking her to work three days a week instead of five meant she would probably have to get another job. Which meant I'd likely lose her the rest of the time.

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